Opt-Out Movement Against Common Core Tests Grows as School Officials Threaten Parents

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Despite threats from some school officials, more parents are opting to take their children out of the online tests associated with the Common Core standards that have been created by two federally funded interstate consortia.

The growing opt-out movement has felt considerable resistance from some school officials who have attempted to shame or threaten parents who don’t want their children sitting through hours of testing that they say will only benefit the creators and supporters of the controversial Common Core standards.

In New York State, where last year some 60,000 students in grades 3-8 opted out of the tests commissioned by the New York State Education Department and created by Pearson, parents have the right to opt out though many say their local school districts claim they cannot refuse them, according to local ABC News 10.

Earlier in the month New York State Assembly member Jim Tedisco (R) launched the Common Core Parental Refusal Act that would require all school districts to notify parents they can opt their children out of the Common Core tests. In the face of attempts at shaming from some school officials who claim parents opting their children out are causing the schools to be penalized with a cut-off from state aid, Tedisco’s bill would protect teachers and schools from being penalized for lack of participation.

“They should be providing parents with the truths and the facts and their rights,” Tedisco said. “And their rights are yes, they can opt out of something they haven’t opted into. They can refuse something for their kids they’ve never opted into.”

In a thorough review of the New York State opt-out situation at the Washington Post, Carol Burris and Bianca Tanis observe that the Phoenix, New York Central School District told parents the state “does not have an approved ‘Opt Out’ process for students who do not want to take the tests.” The district said that “all districts in NYS are legally required by the Federal Government to administer the 3-8 ELA and Math Assessments.”

Students will not be provided an alternative setting, location, or activity,” the letter from superintendent Judith Belfield stated.

Belfield said that lack of participation in the Common Core tests adversely affects teachers and principals, as well as schools and districts.

In Connecticut, which belongs to the Smarter Balanced test consortium, parents are experiencing similar tactics, a situation that led education advocate Jonathan Pelto to call upon Attorney General George Jepsen (D), the state’s Auditors, and the General Assembly’s Education Committee “to investigate the inappropriate and potentially illegal actions being taken by Governor Malloy’s [D, WFP] administration and a group of public school superintendents in violation of prescribed testing protocols for the Common Core SBAC testing.”

Pelto also is asking the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to investigate the “abusive bullying and punishment that is being perpetrated by some school superintendents and local school officials against children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing.”

According to CT Mirror, Connecticut’s education department says the Common Core-aligned tests are worthwhile and that the state will spend $17 million over this fiscal year and the next developing and administering the SBAC tests.

“There is no mechanism or process for a parent to opt their child out,” said Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Education.

Allan B. Taylor, the chairman of the State Board of Education said the response to parents’ decision to opt out is up to local boards of education.

“What the local district chooses to do about that is the local district decision,” he said. “The State Department of Education will not be reaching down and sanctioning parents.”

Joseph Cirasuolo, who heads the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said superintendents in Connecticut plan to allow students to sit out.

“You can’t force someone to take a test they will not take,” Cirasuolo said. “They will be sent someplace else.”

Nevertheless, as reported by CT Mirror, the long arm of the federal government has reached out – in the name of economic justice – in a statement by Dori Nolt, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, which serves to intimidate the state boards of education:

It is the responsibility of states to ensure that all students are assessed annually because it gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations. The Department has not had to withhold money — yet — over this requirement because states have either complied or have appropriately sanctioned schools or districts that assessed less than 95 percent of students.

Nolt’s statement underscores the relationship between the U.S. Department of Education and state boards of education that do its bidding, and why many conservatives want the federal government out of education entirely.

Connecticut parent Cassie Keichline Slossar told Breitbart News that the principal of her daughter’s school said her daughter must take the SBAC test because it is the law. In response to her request to see the law, Slossar said the principal told her she would have to ask her superintendent — and then said she “forgot” to ask him.

Slossar distinguishes between the Common Core-aligned SBAC tests and the state mastery tests.

“Parents are finally being acknowledged as the deciding voice of our children, yet we are still being misled or flat out told no,” Slossar said. “My daughter has not taken the SBAC tests yet she has taken the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), and sat in the classroom for both.”

Jessica Chiong of Connecticut told Breitbart News that her school district officials said they would force her son to take the SBAC test.

“When I said I would refuse, they insisted he would be made to sit in the testing room with the other students – to sit and stare and watch them take the test,” she reported. “This is against SBAC protocol – no one is allowed in the testing room unless they are taking the tests.”

In a letter Chiong provided to Breitbart News, superintendent of West Haven school district Neil Cavallaro wrote:

[L]ocal school districts do not have the authority to permit parents to opt-out their children from mandated testing, as testing all students is required by state and federal law…

Please understand that every student attending school during the administration of the state test will be required to participate in them. Students who choose not to participate will be marked in attendance and will be required to remain with their class in the test room. There will be no alternated instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate.

For more information, please consult the following websites:  www.SmarterBalanced.org and www.sde.ct.gov.

Pelto states that such “sit and stare” policies are “nothing short of bullying and abuse because it creates unnecessary anxiety, embarrassment and a potential sense of humiliation, while fostering an environment of resentment.”

“As if engaging in bullying and abuse wasn’t bad enough, these superintendents and school administrators know, or should know, that the SBAC Testing protocol prohibits children who have opted out of the test from remaining in the testing room,” he added.


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